Travel insurance or the EHIC?

Posted on July 13, 2012 by Guest Writer
Couple relaxing

As the UK weather warms up, or doesn’t as the case may be, your thoughts may be turning to an exotic escapade to hotter climes or perhaps a visit to loved ones in far flung destinations. You’re not alone and we are set for a record number of travel insurance enquiries this year as more and more people understand the importance of being properly insured when going overseas.

A question that many of our customers ask is whether or not they will be covered by the EHIC if they need hospital treatment while they’re abroad and why European travel insurance is an essential purchase. So we’ve put the following guide together to help you understand the EHIC and the benefits of travel insurance.

What is the EHIC?

EHIC stands for European Health Insurance Card and replaced the E111 form in 2006. It is an invaluable tool should you want to jet off somewhere in Europe as it affords you a basic level of emergency medical treatment in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland. What’s more, it is free and you can save hassle by applying for it online.

No-one likes to think of their holiday not going to plan, but should you fall ill while away an EHIC lends you the same level of care that a national of the country in question would receive.

This means that in some cases you will be entitled to cheaper care, and sometimes it may even be free. This does not only cover sudden ailments that occur during a trip, it also applies to treatment for pre-existing medical conditions that becomes necessary during the visit too. However, the EHIC should not be the only form of protection for your holiday as it is not an alternative to travel insurance.

EHIC – what do you get?

The burning question is: will the EHIC give you adequate medical cover on your next trip abroad? The simple answer is maybe.

The EHIC covers some, but by no means all things; it gets you the same state provided treatment as ordinary residents in the country you are visiting – that is where the help ends.

Bear in mind too that, even if your EHIC is accepted, healthcare norms are not consistent across all countries. For example, some hospitals expect part or full payment from patients for non-subsidised ambulance services. Some treatment and medications can be charged too, even if you have the EHIC. Find out more in this county-by-country guide provided by the NHS.

It’s important to note that if you are travelling within the European Economic Area and Switzerland, getting a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) could save you paying the excess (£65 on Comprehensive and £100 on Basic policies) on a medical claim with Staysure.

You can apply for an EHIC online here or by calling 0300 330 1350.

The EHIC does not cover:

  • Trips outside the EEA and Switzerland (note: Turkey is not a current member of the EEA)
  • Private medical healthcare
  • Extra costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts
  • Being flown back to the UK
  • Lost or stolen property such as passports, baggage or precious items
  • Losses from trip cancellation, curtailment and interruption
  • Extra travel and accommodation costs due to illness
  • 24-hour emergency assistance in English
  • Personal liability cover
  • Missed holidays or flights due to strikes/industrial action

Do I need medical travel insurance as well?

The NHS recommends buying travel insurance to compliment the EHIC. It is important to remember that not every country is as generous as the UK when it comes to healthcare, in many countries you will only receive treatment at a discounted cost with the EHIC. What’s more, in many countries patients will have to pay the full cost for treatment at the time and then go through the process of claiming it back later, meaning they could be left out of pocket.

Travel insurance or holiday insurance, on the other hand, offers a much higher level of support should anything go wrong while abroad. This means that holidaymakers can get on with enjoying their trip worry free.

Travel insurance covers much more than medical problems

If your baggage gets lost or stolen, your golf bag or ski equipment vanishes, or your wedding ring, camera or even important medication go missing. The EHIC will not cover any expenses incurred.

Not suggesting all these will happen in one trip, but situations like these can be costly and time-consuming to sort out, particularly when you’re in a foreign country.

Looking for Travel Insurance?

Staysure’s travel insurance cover a full range of options to suit all kinds of travellers, with no upper age limit on single trip policies.

Our travel insurance team will happily discuss your needs – give them a call on 0800 033 4902 or get an online quote in a matter of minutes.

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*Price is correct at time of print, based on one person aged 18–65 travelling in Europe on a Comprehensive policy.
†50 day trip duration available up to the age of 65